The Dessert That Goes with Everything

Homemade old-fashioned vanilla ice cream in a bowl with a scoop

Vanilla ice cream is an approachable, accessible classic. As the "little black dress" of ice cream flavors, it goes with everything yet is strong enough to stand on its own. If you're going to keep just one flavor of ice cream in your freezer, definitely make it vanilla. It's the dream companion for birthday cake, the easiest way to make any slice of pie "a la mode" and a great dessert to serve in a pinch when the kids demand a sweet treat and you don't have anything else on hand. For good reason, it's the most popular ice cream flavor in the U.S. and has been for many years running.

Total Time: 3 hours | Prep Time: 5 minutes | Serves: 6 to 8 (about 1 1/2 pints)


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 vanilla bean


No vanilla beans in the pantry? Just substitute pure vanilla extract instead. For each bean in your recipe, use 1 tablespoon of extract. You won't get the little flecks that are found in a truly old-fashioned vanilla, but you'll still get excellent flavor and texture.


  1. In a large bowl, whisk the heavy cream with the half and half, granulated sugar and salt.
  2. Scrape the vanilla bean and add the seeds inside to the cream mixture.
  3. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
  4. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. 
  5. When the ice cream is done, it will be the consistency of soft serve. Spoon into an airtight container and freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.


You can still make ice cream even if you have no ice cream machine, by using only your base recipe, some ice, rock salt, and zip-top bags. First, mix up your base recipe and chill it. In a gallon-sized zip-top bag, put 3 cups ice cubes and 1/3 cup rock salt. In a smaller, sandwich-sized zip-top bag, put 1 to 2 cups of your chilled ice cream base recipe. Squeeze as much air out of the bag as possible, and close it tightly. Put the creamy bag into another sandwich-sized bag to protect against leaks, making sure both are tightly closed. Put the smaller bags into the large bag filled with ice and salt, and close that bag tightly, too. Then hand the large bag over to your kids and have them shake it, move it, toss it and knead it for 10 to 15 minutes. The inside bag should then be filled with soft serve ice cream.